(Because of the current restrictions, we are unable to go into prisons at present, but this is the kind of day we would usually have, and hope to have again soon...)
As a Community Chaplain, I regularly enter the unique world that is prison, to visit clients before they are released. Almost completely cut off from the outside world and surrounded by barbed wire fences and steel gates, the world seems to shrink when I walk in. Having gone through the various security checks, I set off past the freshly planted flowers, more steel locks, to the chapel. The Prison Chaplains greet me warmly - they are of all different faiths, but we are united in our view to care for and value the prisoners. The Governor once described the chaplaincy team as the prison’s moral compass, highly valued.
I grab a cup of tea and check my in-tray for possible new clients. As I prepare my list of existing clients I chat through any potential new clients with the duty Chaplain. Their wisdom and insight is invaluable.
My first client today wants to offload his frustrations about the system. Sometimes just having the chance to vent can be the difference between holding on one more week, or letting anger get the upper hand. The next client is new, so I go through the introductions and paperwork carefully, explaining each stage. Some struggle to read or take in information, so it is important to allow for that and give time to chat through who we are and what we, as a charity, can do to support them. I have several other clients to see that day in various situations, all unique with their own worries and challenges as they get closer to their release dates.
It is so rewarding to meet a client inside, hear their hopes and dreams and struggles over the weeks or months up to release, and then to walk with them when they are released, as they battle to make some of those dreams a reality. This is the start of a fresh chapter for each person we work with, one that will almost certainly be full of obstacles and intense challenges. The ongoing support on offer from the Community Chaplaincy team, especially their appointed local Volunteer Mentor, is there to help them find the way over the obstacles, and through the challenges . . . and keep going even in the face of setbacks. We know that it can make all the difference. In the words of one client “No thoughts of going back to the old ways, down to support from Community Chaplaincy – thank you!”